early and often

Now Trump Wants a New 2020 Election

He’s blaming his loss on an FBI conspiracy, and his supporters may believe him.

Make America Great retroactively! Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Make America Great retroactively! Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

For most people who do not spend a lot of time in a MAGA media bubble, the saga of Hunter Biden’s laptop is one of those rabbit holes you probably don’t want to climb into. It exploded into view, suspiciously enough, just before the 2020 presidential election, when a Trump-supporting computer repairman in Delaware gave some files from an abandoned laptop to someone connected to Rudy Giuliani, who shared them with the New York Post, which began publishing some of the content in October 2020, presenting them as materials produced by Joe Biden’s sketchy son Hunter.

In MAGA lore, Democrats and their media allies frantically tried to suppress the story and managed to keep it under wraps until after Election Day. But as Vox’s Andrew Prokop carefully explained back in March, that’s not really how it went down:

Media outlets, for their part, didn’t block anything — there was ample coverage of all this in the conservative press and, albeit more slowly, in mainstream media outlets. There is no obligation for media outlets to run with conveniently timed opposition research pushed by one presidential candidate’s team shortly before an election.

There were those in and beyond the media warning that this “conveniently timed” leak from an obscure source might be disinformation, possibly even from the Russian sources so eager to hurt Donald Trump’s opponents in both 2016 and 2020. The FBI shared these warnings with the proprietors of Facebook and Twitter, who put a damper on the wildfire Trump and his allies tried to promote. Since then, the New York Times has subsequently verified that some of the emails and other Hunter Biden material apparently harvested from the Delaware laptop have made their way into a Justice Department investigation of the now-president’s son. And now that the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago has proved, to the satisfaction of MAGA-land, that the Justice Department has been trying to destroy Donald Trump’s political career from the get-go, we have a full-fledged conspiracy theory roaring into new life.

The problem is, of course, that even if you think there was some cover-up of the whole laptop saga, it’s not at all clear there is any there there, as Prokop noted:

The real dispute … wasn’t just about whether the emails were fake or real, but about what they show. Trump allies have insisted the leaked material proves that Joe Biden was corrupt. If you think that’s what’s being covered up, of course it seems outrageous that the mainstream media wasn’t devoting more attention to it.

But the two supposed smoking guns in the materials, Prokop goes on to explain, amount to then-Vice-President Biden “seemingly going to one dinner” and “apparently refusing some deal Hunter tried to enmesh him in” — that is, if Hunter wasn’t just name-dropping his dad for his own selfish reasons. “So the real objection from conservatives,” Prokop concludes, “is that they didn’t get the narrative they liked out of the mainstream media.”

Now, nearly two years later, an increasingly embattled Donald Trump is announcing on Truth Social that the laptop story and its alleged suppression are grounds for overturning the 2020 presidential election “immediately”:

So now it comes out, conclusively, that the FBI BURIED THE HUNTER BIDEN LAPTOP STORY BEFORE THE ELECTION knowing that, if they didn’t, “Trump would have easily won the 2020 Presidential Election.” This is massive FRAUD & ELECTION INTERFERENCE at a level never seen before in our Country. REMEDY: Declare the rightful winner or, and this would be the minimal solution, declare the 2020 Election irreparably compromised and have a new Election, immediately!

There is obviously no provision in the U.S. Constitution for a do-over of the 2020 presidential election or for the ability to “declare” someone who lost the electoral college (not to mention the popular vote) the “rightful winner.” Once Biden was inaugurated on January 20, 2021, he was and remains the president of the United States and can only be removed by resignation, impeachment, or the disabled-president procedures of the 25th Amendment. So Trump’s comments are at best deeply irresponsible misinformation. At worst, they are an effort to stir up another insurrection like the one that failed on January 6.

Digging a little deeper, Trump’s claim that that he “would have easily won the 2020 Presidential Election” had this laptop story been bigger news involves an earlier claim he made on Truth Social over the weekend:

8 of 10 voters in major poll say that the “Laptop from Hell” coverup played a major roll in the 2020 Presidential Election result. The FBI had the Laptop, but refused to divulge information because that would be bad for Biden. Even worse, sold the story to media as Russian “Disinformation,” knowing that was FAKE NEWS. But don’t feel bad, far worse things took place during that Rigged and Stolen Election, and our Country is paying a very BIG price!

The “major poll” — which is now being promoted all over right-wing media — is from Technometrica Institute of Policy and Politics (better known as TIPP). Turns out that the heavily loaded questions TIPP asked were limited to 437 of the 1,335 adults surveyed online who claimed to be “Following Hunter Biden Laptop Story.” It’s not clear what that even means, but the people who make up this fraction of an online survey sample dutifully jumped through their assigned hoops. For instance, when asked, “If there was a concerted effort by the FBI, Intelligence Community, Democrat-controlled Congress, and Biden campaign, along with Big Tech, to frame the Biden laptop as ‘disinformation,’ do you agree or disagree the electorate did not have access to information that could have been critical to their decision at the polls?,” 57 percent of this subset of a subset unsurprisingly agreed “very strongly.” And after a couple of other unbelievably skewed questions, 52 percent thought it was “very likely” and 27 percent thought it was “somewhat likely” the results would have been different if everybody knew about the laptop.

So that’s the basis for Trump demanding control of the White House or a new election right now. And this would all be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that millions of Americans actually believe just about anything this man says. So it doesn’t really matter if there is little evidence that anyone outside the most feverish MAGA circles cares the least bit about Joe Biden’s wayward son and whatever he claimed years ago. The idea that the FBI and media tried to steal the presidency for Hillary Clinton, then let Biden steal the presidency, and now seeks Trump’s destruction has been seeded and reseeded.

If nothing else, these claims will reinforce the threats of MAGA violence if Trump is ultimately indicted over one of the many acts for which he is under federal investigation. Republican senator and media darling Lindsey Graham even said as much in his latest Fox News appearance: “If there is a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information after the Clinton debacle, there will be riots in the streets.”

There might also be, if Trump’s supporters heed his words, an effort to reinstall the 45th president in office without the inconvenience of an actual election.

Trump Demands Unconstitutional Do-over of 2020 Election